RA FOR ALL...THE ROAD SHOW!

I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Spine-Chilling Books Moderated by Me and It's Virtual, Free, and You Can Screen It For Your Patrons

A few weeks ago, I was asked to help organize a virtual panel discussion with Horror authors for a literary society in Michigan. But there was a catch. They only had one author booked, could I fill the panel out for them as well. 

Not only was I able to fill the panel, I am quite proud of the group I have assembled. The authors I have chosen for this FREE event, not only all appeal to a wide audience, but also, they all write a different type of horror. From poetry to cosmic, best-selling epics to speculative Noir, from dark fantasy to the world's Halloween expert, there is literally something here for every type of reader. 

I am posting this 10 days in advance to give you time to sign up for yourself and promote to your patrons. 

But the main reason I wanted to post this here on the general blog is to encourage you to show this panel discussion at your library as a program. Offer it for people to come in person AND through your virtual programming channels. 

Tis the season when even the most timid readers want to dip their toe in Horror's scary waters, and I can promise you that this will be an event for ALL readers. You can offer it on a screen for them to participate and pull the titles by these authors and/or use my book to gather up a bunch of titles for them to browse after. We will talk for an hour and you can extend the program by having a discussion about what you heard us talk about and the Horror genre in general.

Please consider joining us for free on Monday, October 17th, at pm Eastern, live from a computer of your choice.

Here is the official info from the Book and Author Society And here is the direct Zoom registration link:
We're thrilled to invite you to another fantastic panel discussion event featuring horror authors, moderated by Becky Spratford. This event is free and open to the public, so please pass this post on and share it with your friends.












Our panel of authors includes:

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Final Report of the ALA Working Group on Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice: Pass it On

Some of you might have seen the teaser from NoveList that Robin and I are bringing our training to their new Learn With NoveList platform beginning on 10/26. If not, click here for that teaser. 

I cannot tell you a lot yet, but I can promise you is that this will be the most affordable way to get the full Actively Anti-Racist Service to Leisure Readers training from us, both on your own time and LIVE in person with multiple live options. Both Robin and I are very happy with the course. It is now in the hands of some beta testers. More on that soon including pricing and group rates once NoveList gets that marketing material to us.

But something I just added to the course at the last minute and wanted to make sure I posted here as well is the official report to the ALA Executive Board from the ALA Working Group on Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice, a report that demands that the ALA Executive Board distance itself from the language of neutrality and focus instead on the humanity of our users.

For some background on this working group, click here for my ALA Annual report from the final day of the conference. Please scroll to the bottom for the detailed notes about a program hosted by this working group-- it was at the end of the day.

That program promised that the working group would be delivering a final report to the ALA Executive Board. I confirmed with Martin Garnar, one of the co-chairs, that this happened in at their July meeting.

From my email conversation with Garnar:

The report to the executive board is available on their documents page. I presented at the July meeting and my understanding was that the board was going to discuss the recommendations and potential next steps at their fall meeting, which should be taking place next month. They did form a small group to carry the discussion forward, so we'll see what happens.

Click here to read the full report. It is strong and clearly asks ALA to take real action and stop sleeping on this important issue. While the report does a good job explaining everything the working group did, but I wanted to pull out their conclusions for those of you who will never click through:

Conclusion:
The ALA's core values are anything but neutral. The positions and policy statements in the ALA Policy Manual spell out specific ethical commitments demanding that sides be taken in
contentious situations. It is important to be explicit about our beliefs and how they inform our
work. As library workers, we should:
  • advance and fully implement equity, diversity, inclusion, justice, and belonging in hiring, mentoring, supporting, and promoting library staff; and advocate for equity, diversity, inclusion, justice, and belonging in relationships with library vendors;
  • promote equitable access to information, providing more assistance to those who need it;
  • provide a diversity of perspectives in our collections and resources highlighting communities that have historically been underrepresented or excluded;
  • listen actively to recommendations of individuals from marginalized groups; ensure and advance equity in providing access to facilities, resources, and services;
  • educate ourselves and our users about the critical evaluation of information and the structures in which it is created; and
  • champion social justice, taking action to combat discrimination and systemic racism.
To succeed in these goals we propose adopting an approach based on these frameworks that meets the goal of building trust with our communities rather than using neutrality as our guiding value. In doing so libraries and library workers will be prioritizing the defense and support of thehumanity of our users.

Please read the entire report. I will be including it EVERY time I present my Actively Anti-Racist Services to Leisure Readers program from now until the ALA Executive Board takes further action. I hope you spread the work about this report as well. The more it gets out there, the more pressure placed on ALA to respond.

Again, pull report can be accessed here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

RA for All is Off For Yom Kippur

But 31 Days of Horror posted on its own today. It is my first "Why I Love Horror" of 2022 and I purposed picked a brand new voice to kick things off. Enjoy that here.

Back tomorrow with the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction Longlist announcement!

I am so excited that our committee can share this with the world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Using Awards Lists As A RA Tool: Shirley Jackson Awards Edition

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool.   

In yesterday's post I mentioned an author whose story appeared in a Shirley Jackson Award Nominated Anthology. So today, let's talk Shirley Jackson Awards. They are coming out a little later than normal this year, but that is because they are part of the larger Boston Book Festival this year and that is happening October 29th.

I am on record, multiple times, saying that  this is my favorite award. If I had to pick only 1 award for fiction, this would be it. And that is saying a lot because I have been on the juries for multiple awards and not this one.

But why this one? A few reasons,

First, the Shirley Jackson Awards are an excellent RA tool not only for the normal reasons I outline with the links to start this post, but also because they are an award that is NOT bound by genre. The entire point of the books that are nominated for and win this award is that they represent the legacy of Jackson, herself. Books that are darkly speculative and/or are intensely psychological; books that defy conventions but are great.  Each and every year titles are honored that are amazing reads but are almost always overlooked by genre awards, not because they aren't great [because they are], but because when push comes to shove, they do not fit as easily into the genre box as the other options.

Second, because books that win the Shirley Jackson Award already live on the fringes, the jurors and the titles they choose are more diverse than your average award.

And third, this award can be used as a "readalike" list on its own. Why? Because the main thing these nominated titles all share is a connection to Jackson and her brand of storytelling; thus, they all have an appeal connection that other awards can not promise in the same way. 

Which reminds me, the Shirley Jackson Awards not only have annual jurors who rotate every year but they also have a board of directors and an advisory board. You can access all of those people and their bios on this one page. Every single one of those authors is also readlaike option. 

And of course, the super easy backlist access of nominees and winners going back to 2007, all avaiable with 1 easy click. 

You want a display of weird, unsettling, and compelling titles, look no further than these tales, all of which are singled out for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Those nominated for this year and all past years. There are so many options you will never run out of a suggestion for your patrons searching out this type of read.

Below I have reposted the nominees announcement and added access to my reviews, if applicable, with a link on the title.

Boston, MA (September 2022) — In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc. has been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Fiction, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

The nominees for the 2021 Shirley Jackson Awards are:

NOVEL

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter (Titan Books)

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer (MCD)

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (Saga Press)

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone Publishing)

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (Nightfire)

NOVELLA

Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom)

Dirty Heads: A novella of cosmic coming-of-age horror by Aaron Dries (Black T-Shirt Books)

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (Tordotcom)

A Rose / Arose by Michael Bailey (Written Backwards)

The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárate, translated by David Bowles (Innsmouth Free Press)

NOVELETTE

House of Crows by Lisa Unger (Amazon Original Stories)

“The Nag Bride” by A.C. Wise (The Ghost Sequences, Undertow Publications)

The Night Belongs to Us by Jess Landry (Independent Legions Publishing)

“We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It” by E. A. Petricone (Nightmare Magazine, February 2021)

The Women by Margaret Jameson (F(r)iction)

SHORT FICTION

“Dizzy in the Weeds” by L.D. Lewis (Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness)

“Forward, Victoria” by Carlie St. George (The Dark Magazine, April 2021)

“Gordon B. White is Creating Haunting Weird Horror” by Gordon B. White (Nightmare Magazine, July 2021)

“Human Reason” by Nicasio Andres Reed (Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness)

“You’ll Understand When You’re a Mom Someday” by Isabel J. Kim (khōréō magazine, August 2021)

 SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons: Stories by Keith Rosson (Meerkat Press)

People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Ted Goossen (Soft Skull Press)

Sometimes We’re Cruel by J.A.W. McCarthy (Cemetery Gates Media)

We are Happy, We are Doomed by Kurt Fawver (Grimscribe Press)

Where All is Night, and Starless by John Linwood Grant (Trepidatio Publishing)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

Giving The Devil His Due: A Charity Anthology, edited by Rebecca Brewer (Running Wild Press)

Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World, edited by Eric J. Guignard (Dark Moon Books)

Stitched Lips: An Anthology of Horror from Silenced Voices, edited by Ken MacGregor (Dragon’s Roost Press)

There Is No Death, There Are No Dead, edited by Jess Landry & Aaron J. French (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, edited by dave ring (Neon Hemlock)

SPECIAL AWARD

The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc., also is committed to promoting the legacy of Shirley Jackson and, as part of this mission, will present a Special Award to Ms. Datlow in recognition of the anthology When Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson (Titan Books, 2021).

Ms. Datlow was a nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award for Edited Anthology for the years 2011, 2013 (with Terri Windling), 2015, 2017, and 2019, and won the award in this category for the years 2007, 2009, and 2014.

Previous recipients of a Special Award from the Shirley Jackson Awards are Joyce Carol Oates as editor of the Library of America edition of Shirley Jackson:  Novels & Stories (Library of America, 2010) and Ruth Franklin in recognition of her biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life(Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2016).

2021 SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARDS CEREMONY

The 2021 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented in-person on October 29, 2022, as part of the Boston Book Festival, in partnership with Readercon, Conference on Imaginative Literature. The awards ceremony will be hosted by Elizabeth Hand and Paul Tremblay.


Monday, October 3, 2022

What I'm Reading: A Study in Ugliness and All These Subtle Deceits

The October 1, 2022 issue of Booklist has 2 of my reviews. Both are by newer voices and both should be on your radar for a wide audience. The first one, is a unique translation by and author who will be a part of my "Why I Love Horror" series later this month on the Horror blog, and the second is the first book in a series that will be wildly popular with library patrons and it is part of a brand new imprint by Sadie Hartmann who will also be featured here in the coming days.

A Study in Ugliness & Outras Histórias
By H. Pueyo
Oct. 2022. 250p. Lethe, paper, $18 (9781590216019)

First published October 1, 2022 (Booklist). 

After a few appearances in critically acclaimed anthologies and magazines, Pueyo is ready for her close-up with this debut collection of 10 stories presented side-by-side in both Portuguese and English. The visual layout is both authentic and striking, adding an extra layer of unease to these already deeply unsettling stories because as readers turn the page, their eyes will automatically look at the next page, but will be unable to read it. The subsequent pause and readjustment, forces the reader to slow down and fully experience these thought-provoking, disorienting, and open-ended tales that are more about how they make you feel than what happens in them. A standout example of Pueyo’s style can be seen in “An Open Coffin.” Amélia is hired by her former army officer as caretaker for a long dead and preserved body that receives daily visitors. But what do those visitors want from the body and what does the body need from them? This captivating new voice is a great choice for those who enjoy the weird and atmospheric stories by Carmen Maria Machado, Samanta Schweblin, and Karen Russell.

Further Readalikes: These are excellent stories by someone who you all NEED to know about. I will do my part helping that to happen by featuring Pueyo later this month here on the blog. But when I said she has been featured in top anthologies already, I am not exaggerating. One of those anthologiesProfessor Charlatan Bardot's Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird Wild World edited by Eric Guignard [my review] was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award and just a few days ago, it was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award as well.

I cannot emphasize enough how very cool it was to present these stories in English and Portuguese. Pueyo not only handled her own translations [and has interesting comments about that process in the book as well], but some of the stories were first written in English and others in Portuguese. 


Finally, I will be hosting a giveaway of this book as part of a Lethe Press prize pack on October 13th. You can enter anytime for that by clicking here for the entry details.


Three Words That Describe This Book: deeply unsettling, thought-provoking, disorienting


Readalikes: Pueyo's writing absolutely reminded me of the three above, excellent award winning speculative story writers who have mastered balancing a deeply unsettling, weird brand of speculative storytelling. The Guignard anthology mentioned above is also a great readalike as well as anything by Cassandra Khaw.


All These Subtle Deceits 

by C. S. Humble

Oct. 2022. Dark Hart, paper, $14.95 (9781958598047)
First published October 1, 2022 (Booklist).

Lauren has just put 1,000 miles between her and a bad relationship, moving to Black Wells, CO, but after one of her first nights out at a local nightclub, Lauren is the victim of a supernatural attack by three female spirits. William is a defrocked priest and expert exorcist with wealthy and influential clients. When Lauren is sent to William for help, the two work together, along with an intriguing cast of secondary characters, to uncover the root of the evil that has gotten ahold of Lauren. Opening this first book in a projected series, Humble has succeeded on all fronts, creating a compelling story set in a fascinating haunted city, but it is with the book’s strong emotional core, centered around William and Lauren, whose alternating points of view not only keep the pacing up, but allow the reader to connect with them, where this book will leave its mark on readers. Suggest this one with confidence and enthusiasm to fans of supernatural noir like Butcher’s Harry Dresden Files or Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series.

Further Appeal: This is one of the first books in a new, small press horror imprint, Dark Heart. Edited by Horror influencer, Sadie Hartmann, these titles promise to present “horror with heart,” a tag line that will make it easy for library workers to handsell their titles. This book is also the first in a 5 books series.


Speaking of Hartmann, my October column in LJ includes another book from this publisher-- an anthology and an interview with Hartmann and her co-editor, Saywers. I will be posting both on the blog when they are available.


Note: this book also has a bonus short story by the author.


Three Words That Describe This Book: supernatural Noir, demonic possession, series characters 


Readalikes: This will be a perfect read for you Harry Dresden [Butcher] and Sandman Slim [Kadrey] fans-- of which libraries have many and always need suitable readlaike options. Now you get a new series to rec.

Friday, September 30, 2022

RA for All Greatest Hits: Share Why Someone Would Enjoy a Book NOT What Happens

Today's entry in the RA for All Greatest Hits series is one of  the tenants of RA Service, "Share Why Someone Would Enjoy a Book, Not The Plot." When we share book suggestions with readers we don't want to spend our time sharing the plot. What happens in a story is something that the reader will experience on their own. You can frame the story for them to prime them for how it begins, but when we are trying to match books with readers, the key is in the appeal-- how the story is told.

The post below not only reminds people of this foundational RA concept, but it also explains how you can easily articulate the appeal of a book by using both professional and reader based resources-- without every reading said book.

More below, but I would also like to add this exercise to the post. Take the last book you finished that you greatly enjoyed-- or an all time favorite-- and then look it up in NoveList and Goodreads as I mention below. Compare the professional reviews, appeal factors, and readalikes from NoveList with the "shelves" and reviews from 5 stars to 2 stars on Goodreads. Get a sense of why you and other like [or don't like] this book.

Now do the same thing but with a book you know about, but haven't read yet. Even better if you pick a favorite of a coworker and ask them why they like it first and then do the exercise described above second. You can compare their experience to what the resources teach you. 

Adding this exercise to the post will help you to practice and see the concept in "action."

For more of RA for All's Greatest Hits click here.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2020

Share Why Someone Would Enjoy a Book, Not The Plot

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but then I remember that many of you encounter this blog at different points in your careers  so today I just want to post a quick reminder about how and why we do this job of helping leisure readers.

When we talk about books with patrons we do not need to spend more than a single sentence on the "plot," and that sentence, or even just phrase, is more to frame the book within the vast of universe of the entirety of the publishing world.

What we need to all focus on is WHY someone would want to read it. That is the information you need to  share. The plot they can read on the back of the book, but how the story is told, that is why they will like it or not.

And here is the best news for you-- articulating how the story is told is super easy to find via resources. Bonus: if you haven't read the book yourself it is even easier! That is mostly because you will only use resources to articulate appeal rather than introduce your version of the book.

In terms of the best resources to do this, I have a two pronged attack-- Professional Book World resources and Reader Driven resources. This insures you get the book world opinion and actual reader comments. Using them in combination is both efficient and effective.

For the Professional opinion, the best place to go is NoveList because they have multiple resources in one place. You can find the professional reviews from the major journals and the appeal terms and themes assigned by NoveList. Pairing the main entry for a title with the reviews is one of the best ways to get a sense of why someone would enjoy the book. You can even read the appeal terms and some of the key points from the review right from the database to your patron.

For the Reader Driven option, I like Goodreads. Look, there are issues with Goodreads, it is not perfect, but it is where the largest number of reviews, from actual readers, are available. I always suggest checking 4 star and 2 star reviews to get a sense of why a book really worked or didn't work for a particular reader. This gives you a 360 degree view of the appeal of the book to a casual leisure reader. The only better resource for this is chatting with a patron at the desk.

Goodreads also has another one of my favorite reader driven resources-- the "shelves" people place a book on. Go on, look up a recent favorite read. Here is the entry for Plan Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth [I just gave it a star in LJ and it is out next week]. I picked this book because it has wide appeal. Toward the top of the right gutter you will find a "Genre" chart for every book. Here is a screen shot of the one for Plain Bad Heroines.


As you can see in the image, you can also click on "See top shelves..."for more. These shelves are the terms real readers use to classify their books. Let's use this example to show how you use these. This novel is a Gothic, historical, horror novel with a mystery at its heart and a strong lesbian frame. Those  things are all reflected in those terms above, but which is the most important to your reader?

If  someone mentions they like this book because it is historical, you are looking in different places for a readalike than those who identify the mystery as their biggest appeal. But because Goodreads crowdsources all of  the data, you can simply click on those terms that real readers use to find more similar titles.

This resource does not always make as much sense as NoveList but that is because it a product  of real readers' brains. Think about yourself. We all have books we enjoy  equally that on paper seem to not have anything in common. And yet, to us they do. Goodreads replicates the randomness of  people and their opinions in a way no professional resource can. I am not exaggerating when I say that there have been numerous times when I clicked n a user generated adjective like "spooky," to help a patron and got better results than using the controlled NoveList language-- because people don't always make algorithmic sense.

But I never have matched a book based on its plot. Maybe its frame, which many might consider plot [it's not], but never on what actually happens. It is always about how the story unfolds, the narrative choices the author makes, and if the reader likes how it all comes together to tell that plot that matters.

Stop focusing on what happens and start sharing why the reader might enjoy it. Use the resources, not your personal experience to share that. Trust me, you will have less stress and happier readers. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

RA for All Road Show Visits the Missouri Library Association Conference

Click here for the conference site

For the next two days I am in Springfield Missouri for the Missouri Library Association Conference. You can click here for the full schedule.

My appearance is sponsored by LibraryReads. One of LibraryReads' current priorities is to fund RA training at state library association conferences. The goal is to get more basic RA training into as many states as possible to train those who are at the state conferences and have them bring it back to their staff.

I have been appearing at state and regional library conferences for years, so I know the drill. I am glad that LibraryReads is making it possible for me to be here. You can click here for access to all of my programs via the conference website

I begin with a half-day preconference this morning from 9am-12pm. 

  • 9-10:30: RA for All: Flip the Script and Think Like a Reader [Slides]
  • 10:45-Noon: Booktalk Your Way to the Friendliest Library in Town [Slides]
After a lunch break, I will be an attendee at this LibraryReads and NoveList joint program.

Then tomorrow:

  • 9am-10:45am: Actively Anti-Racist Service to Leisure Readers w/ discussion time included. [Slides]
  • 11-11:45: Horror RA: Hew to Help Your Scariest Patrons [Slides] with my HWA Library Committee Co-Chair, Konrad Stump and NoveList Horror expert, Yaika Sabat.
Speaking of NoveList, at the end of the Booktalking and Anti-Racist programs there is a teaser slide from NoveList about a BRAND NEW learning opportunity that  I will be doing for them with Robin Bradford. Both Robin and I are very excited about being able to bring our training to more people in a new way. 

Any of you can see the teaser but the full details will be coming very soon. We can't wait to share it with you, but first, I will be seeing some of you here in Springfield, MO.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Best Graphic Novels Reading Lists and the GNCRT

The Graphic Novels and Comic Round Table [GNCRT] is a newer division of the American Library Association. Their job is to provide information, programing, and best lists for the format much like the other ALA based best lists.

Today, I wanted to  point you to there because the lists they have been creating are excellent for collection development, display, and suggestions across all age levels.

Click here to get to their "Best Graphic Novels Reading Lists." They have a list for 2020, 2021, and their nominations list for 2022. Lists are broken up by audience, adult and children, as well as fiction and nonfiction. What I love about the final annual list is that they pick a top 10 overall and then have the full honors list below. There are many titles and they are all vetted by experts.

Also as you can see, all years' lists are linked on the main page, which makes the backlist super easy to access.

But what surprised me, and what I found super useful, was the fact that they have a running list of the nominated titles for the current award year. Click here to see the titles that have been nominated and seconded by a committee member already this year.  This list is a wonderful, real time, resource. Since the critical coverage of GNs is way too low considering their popularity and, quite honestly, excellence, I love that the GNCRT does this. It helps to elevate the format and provides more resources for those curating collection and helping patrons. As someone who bought for a well funded and popular GN collection from 2000-2015, I would have loved to have a resource like this. 

As great as these lists are, however, I would like to bring up a larger, gatekeeping issue. These lists are for a format. A format that is better than the awards landscape gives it credit for. Just because this official ALA GNCRT Best List committee exists that does not mean that all GNs are now excluded from genre or even literary awards.

I truly believe that the very best GNs are among our very best books [period]. Just as I believe that genre books can be among our very best books [period]. Just like a books can win the Coretta Scott King Award AND the Newbery Medal. Just because a "Black" focused book award exists, that does not mean those books get the Coretta Scott King Award and that is enough. They are also eligible for the overall best awards and have won.

And yet, while this last statement is well accepted now, we need to remember it took decades of the Coretta Scott Award until people accepted this. The argument was, well there is a "Black" award already so we don't need to honor those books with the overall award as well. And that was a common discussion. Now it seems wrong, but I assure you, it was COMMON.

The same thing happens with Graphic Novels. Only Maus has ever broken through, and it took a "special" award to make it happen. Because GNs are a format, the fight to mainstream the very best into our awards conversations is not as urgent as those that are race or ethnicity or religion or ability based [we have ALA awards for all of those things as well], but if we are striving to be as inclusive as possible, we need to  consider BEST as BEST regardless of if the story is told with pictures. And, I would argue, some books are better told as a marriage between words and pictures. 

Sorry for the side rant, but this is something I am in the midst of and trying to work out. Back to the wonderful work of the GNCRT.

Keep this page bookmarked because the GNCRT is doing great work and they have proved that they are here to stay and keep doing great work for years to come.

Friday, September 23, 2022

RA for All Greatest Hits: Library Books Are Not Free, They Are Pre-Paid

Today's entry in the RA for All Greatest Hits series is one of my most popular posts, something I remind people of as often as I can, and something that I have gotten others to adopt-- the reminder that we should NEVER tell patrons that the items and services we offer are free. They are NEVER free. Every single person pre-pays for library service in the form of some type of taxation. And yes, renters pay too because those costs are worked into rent. 

Long time readers knew this one was coming soon.

For more of RA for All's Greatest Hits click here.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2019

Call to Action: Stop Spreading the Fake News That Library Books Are Free


Today I have a quick Call to Action, one that is very easy for all of you to start doing right now. It is a small language change, but it can make a huge difference for our entire profession. Here it is:
You need to stop telling people that our services are free and instead say they are PRE-PAID.
First, "free" is NOT accurate. People do not pay to check out the books and movies as they borrow them, but everyone does pay for the library and its services through their tax dollars. Yes, even renters pay because their rent pays for the taxes for the owner of the building.

We are a profession which is all about accuracy, about combatting "fake news," and yet we perpetuate our own fake news by telling people our services are free.

Reminding people that for example, they can take more than 1 book because they are free is NOT TRUE. They have paid for them, just earlier, as part of their taxes. We need to be more accurate on principle, yes but there is more to it.

Second, when we aren't being honest about the cost of our services, when we dismiss them as "free," we lull our patrons into a false sense that these services will always be there no matter what. If they forget that they have paid for these services as taxes, when the talk of tax freezes or tax cuts comes around, it will be much easier for the public to argue for cutting the library's tax line because they forget that they pay for it. All that "free" talk means they aren't reminded about the actual cost.

We need to be advocates for the good feels that the library gives people and equate that as a cost benefit. I live in a high tax area. I get it. But when my friends and neighbors complain about their taxes, I remind them what a great deal they are getting through the library [and the schools]. I tell people to think what it would actually cost them to check out those materials, stream those shows, buy audio books, go to great programs, etc.... Now look at your library tax line. It is a steal.

We have to talk about the money openly, honestly, and accurately or we will loose the financial support we need to survive.

Third, and this one is just human nature, people don't value things that are free as much as they value things they pay for. Reminding people, frequently, that they have pre-paid for the library and all of its services, elevates the value of the institution.

Every time you remind patrons that the services and items they are so please with are PRE-PAID you are advocating for your public library, actually for every public library. You are advocating for the institution itself. You are advocating for equal service to all, everywhere, all of the time.

But every time you tell people the service is free, you are undermining everything. I know you think you are trying to help by letting people know there is no charge at the time of service, but there is a charge. We have budgets, budgets that are shrinking. We do a lot with very little already, any less and we will disappear. People need to know that. They need to realize that their tax dollars are key to our survival.

So please, consider using PRE-PAID when you talk about user costs of our services. And remind them often so that if a time comes when people in your town start talking about budget cuts, they won't even consider the library's tax line. Why? Because that line is one they respect, one they use, one they know has monetary value, one that isn't free, one that requires dollars to survive. And it is our responsibility to stop the fake news of free and accurately proclaim...PRE-PAID!